the-week-magazine

marmolita  asked:

How about something about Gladio and Ignis or other Citadel-related people handling the fact that puberty turned Noctis from a cute kid into a really surprisingly attractive young man?

Author’s Notes: I’m… not sure if this is at all what you wanted? H-haha, sorry. orz Anyway, thank you for the prompt, and sorry this got so long and rambly. ^^

===

Notice

===

Puberty comes late to the crown prince of Lucis. At fifteen, he still looks like a child, with a certain softness to his face and a slenderness to his build.

He tries to beg his way out of school picture day, because he knows well enough that, when he stands beside his classmates, he’ll be shorter than all but a handful.

Then comes sixteen, and with it all the trappings of adulthood. Per the king’s instructions, Ignis begins briefing Noct in more expansive matters of state: in boundary disputes and diplomacy; in civic planning and rules of law.

It’s as though Noct’s body rushes to catch up with the responsibility.

He grows a foot in two months; his limbs take on the gangling, awkward look of adolescent puppies. He has to be measured for an entire new wardrobe, and then another, several months after that.

Ignis notes the razor that rests by the bathroom sink now, a point of pride, though he doubts that Noct has much call to use it. He notes the frequency with which the maids have to change His Highness’ sheets, and he sighs, reminds himself of the hormone-driven days he was more than happy to leave behind, and sits Noctis down for the most embarrassing conversation that he has ever had call to engage in with another human being.

It lasts for half an hour. It focuses primarily on responsibilities, and the importance of maintaining the royal lineage. It covers the unpleasant effects of certain sexually transmitted diseases, and what measures should be taken in order to avoid scandal. 

It ends with Noctis in possession of a box of condoms. 

It ends with the knowledge that Noct can turn that peculiar shade of dahlia pink, heretofore unseen.

===

The damn kid has a fan club. 

Gladio’s not sure when it happened, but hell if it isn’t the funniest thing he’s ever heard.

Iris comes home from school one day, all worked up about it, and Gladio knows by now exactly which way to prod to get his sister to talk about whatever she’s excited about. She’s bad at hiding it; that’s just the kind of person she is. If she’s into something, it comes bubbling up out of her.

So he prods, and she begs off answering, and then two hours later, she comes back around while Gladio’s reading in his father’s study. She sits herself down on the couch, and she says, “I wasn’t the one who started it,” and Gladio feels his eyebrow go up.

Iris launches into a tale of intrigue and betrayal, one that ends with two of the most popular girls at their school founding the Prince Noctis Fan Club.

And what else was she going to do? She has to keep an eye on them, to make sure they’re not doing anything that’ll be bad for Noct’s good name. So she joined, too. She might not be first in line to be Shield, but she can shield the prince from some things, at least.

Gladio tells her that she did the right thing.

He agrees that it’s best she keep tabs on membership, for Noct’s sake. 

He sees her to the door, and he closes it behind her, and he sits back down with his book.

Then he laughs so hard tears roll down his cheeks, and bites his thumb to keep from being loud about it.

And when Iris’ class comes to the Citadel on their field trip, he cajoles Noct into playing tour guide.

===

Noct’s new apartment looks like a space that can be lived in, finally.

The cardboard boxes scattered haphazardly across the floor have long been unpacked. Their contents fill the shelves. Ignis saw to most of it, fiddling with considerations such as convenience and aesthetics, while Noct played games on his sofa.

That’s months in the past, now. On the occasions when the space is clean, it actually looks quite nice.

The young man that stands in the center of it, in his trim black suit and sloppy tie, looks at home here. It’s done Noct a world of good, getting some space for himself outside the Citadel.

The new living arrangements come with several specific unfortunate downsides, however. Among them: the time between coaxing Noctis from bed and him walking through the door to the Council’s chamber has dramatically increased.

Ignis glances him over, with a critical eye.

He looks half awake, still. His hair has been gelled, but there’s a certain sloppiness to the way it’s been teased into its peaks and valleys. His face is washed, but the concealer and eyeliner the prince sometimes takes pains to apply is conspicuously absent, abandoned in favor of a few more minutes in bed. The tie knotted at his throat, a beautiful silken blue, looks as though it’s been arranged by a five year old.

“Honestly, Noct,” says Ignis, and steps forward to straighten it up.

His fingers slide against the silk; his touches are brisk and businesslike. But he’s aware of Noct’s eyes on him, that curious shade of night-sky blue. He’s aware of long lashes that truly don’t need the help of the eyeliner. He’s aware of the way Noct’s lips curve up at the corner into a smile, fond and familiar.

Suddenly, Ignis isn’t certain when the chubby toddler he played with as a child turned into this young man before him, who looks every inch the dashing prince from the pages of a fairy tale.

“You do it better, anyway,” says Noct.

Ignis steps back and admires his handwork; the tie is crisp and even, and Noctis looks very much the young gentleman.

“There,” he says. “That will serve.”

It will more than serve. 

His Highness has a photo shoot for a popular girl’s magazine next week. Ignis makes a mental note to ensure they fit this tie into the wardrobe.

It complements the blue of Noct’s eyes quite nicely, indeed.

===

They’re in the middle of training when Noct loses the shirt.

Gladio doesn’t blame him; it’s hot as hell, and they’ve been going at it for damn near an hour and a half. He stripped out of his own at the start of the session, and he’s still sweating buckets.

But Noct hardly ever ditches his.

If Gladio had to guess, he’d say it probably has something to do with the mess of a scar halfway down the kid’s back. It’s pretty badass, honestly, but he there’s no telling what’ll set someone off. 

Whatever the reason, Noct keeps the shirt on, most days. He hasn’t taken it off in training for – hell, probably almost four years now.

He was a scrawny scrap of a thing, last time Gladio saw him without it, but those days, it looks like, are long in the past.

He’s filled out, that’s for sure. The shoulders are broader, and the abdomen is all lean muscle. However much Gladio gets on him to lay off the pizza, he doesn’t need to. Sure, he’s not ripped. Gladio knows for damn sure he can bench press four times what Noct can pull off, easy.

But Noct’s trained in just about every weapon in the armory, and it shows. He’s built like a gymnast, all sleek power. 

It’s a good look on him. No wonder his fan club’s having its three year anniversary next week.

When Noct glances up and catches him looking, Gladio gives an unimpressed snort.

“Gonna have to step up arm day,” he says. “Can’t have the crown prince flexing with those noodle arms.”

“Noodle arms,” says Noct. “Right.” There’s a flash of blue, and the biggest great sword in the Armiger flickers to life in his hands. It’s as long as Noct is. When they started, he could barely lift it, but now he falls into his stance, massive blade out before him, head tipped up in challenge. “That sounds to me like an invite to knock you on your ass.”

Gladio feels himself grinning. He calls up his own sword in one hand – uses the other to crook his fingers, the world’s universal come-get-some gesture. “Bring it, princess. Let’s see what you’ve got.”

===

The Accordan ambassador is tall and amiable, and entirely too familiar with the prince.

At dinner, he’s seated to Noct’s left, and he spends the meal leaning in closer than is proper. After, he blames the drink; Lucian wine, he claims, is far more powerful than what he’s grown accustomed to.

Ignis, who counts himself something of an expert on vintages, knows very well that the alcohol content from most Accordan wines is much higher, but for propriety’s sake, he presses his lips together and says nothing.

After the meal, King Regis and his son retire to the lounge to entertain the visiting diplomat. There are certain concessions in the upcoming trade deal that His Majesty hopes to lay the groundwork for, off the books.

Ignis won’t be needed for the remainder of the evening. He’s free to retire to his own quarters, and nothing pressing requires his attention. It could be one of those rare few early nights, if he so chooses.

Instead, he lingers in the grand hall, seating himself where the tour groups pass to and fro, during daylight hours. Now, the there are no curious eyes about to see the sights. Now, the Citadel is nearly empty.

He’s not certain what he’s waiting for.

He idles there far longer than he can excuse as fancy, tapping notes to himself neatly into his phone for tomorrow’s meetings, for want of anything better to do.

That’s where Gladiolus finds him. The man’s in a suit, hair slicked back. He had a tie at one point, but it’s been removed from its spot around his neck, crammed into a pocket haphazardly.

“What,” says Gladio, slowing to a stop before him. “You don’t have anywhere else to be?”

“Not at the moment,” says Ignis, primly, and taps in the last of his notes before looking up.

Gladio sprawls onto the bench without waiting to be invited, legs spread casually in the manner of ill-behaved thirteen-year-old boys. Ignis spares him a lingering glance. 

“Never seen you not in a rush to do something or other,” says Gladio, bemused.

“There’s nothing wrong with keeping a tight schedule.” Ignis adjusts his glasses, though truth be told they don’t need it. “What of yourself? It isn’t like you to linger after hours.”

Gladio lifts one big shoulder and lets it fall. “What, can’t a guy feel like hanging around?”

It would be hypocritical for Ignis to argue the point, and so he doesn’t. He only opens up a new document for his three o'clock with the minister of finance and begins tapping in something new.

He’s written barely two words when his phone buzzes.

It’s a text from Noct, and it reads, “you still around?”

Ignis replies immediately: “I am.”

There is a moment’s pause, during which Ignis pretends to add to his notes but makes no alterations of any value. Then a new text arrives. “can you come here pls.”

He’s on his feet before he’s finished reading, turning toward the elevator that leads up to the higher-security levels of the Citadel.

Gladio says, “What’s the rush?”

And Ignis, thoughts on the Accordan ambassador blaming the wine, says, “Noct,” and his tone is a bit tighter than he intended.

Perhaps Gladio can read his inflection. Perhaps his posture, more closed off than usual, gives him away.

But Gladiolus is on his feet an instant later, falling into step beside Ignis as he makes for the elevator. “On my way,” Ignis taps into his phone, as the doors slide closed behind him.

They arrive at the king’s lounge barely five minutes later. Ignis knocks on the door, brisk and businesslike, and calls out, “Highness?” in a voice loud enough to be audible through the elaborate paneled wood.

There’s a pause, and then Noct opens the door.

He’s decidedly more disheveled than he was half an hour ago. His hair is askew, and the knot of his tie is sloppy. But more than that, his eyes are flat and guarded, in the way they get when he’s upset about something.

Ignis takes in the scene: a room empty of King Regis, empty of anyone else save the Accordan ambassador leaning casually back against the couch, a glass of half-drunk scotch in his hand. His face is redder than it was before, and he looks a touch disheveled, as well.

And Noct. Noct catches at Ignis’ cuff and stares up at him, and then toward Gladio, standing there in the hall. His grip is too tight, and his fingers are trembling.

That tells Ignis all he needs to know.

“Terribly sorry,” says Ignis. “I’m afraid the Council has announced an emergency meeting. His Highness is required elsewhere.”

Then he holds the door wide and says, “Gladiolus, if you’d be so kind as to see the ambassador out?”

He doesn’t think he imagines the way Gladio’s eyes linger on Noct. He doesn’t think he imagines the tightness in the man’s jaw. “With pleasure,” says Gladio, grimly.

“Highness,” says Ignis. “Shall we? The timeline is rather pressing, I’m afraid.”

Noct nods, and lets go of Ignis’ sleeve. He says, “Lead the way.”

He follows Ignis out into the hall, toward the Council chamber. They walk in silence until they reach the first turn in the hallway. Then Ignis changes his route, circling back around to veer toward the Citadel’s private suites.

It takes them just shy of five minutes to reach Noct’s old room. It’s maintained in his absence, for when an official function runs late and he wishes to stay over instead of returning to his apartment.

He stands there in the doorway, looking somewhat harrowed, until Ignis says, “If he tries to reschedule, I’ll shift his appointments around until his ship sails. After he’s safely off our shores, the authorities in Accordo will receive a request for a new representative.”

“Thanks,” says Noct. He swallows. “My dad had to beg off. His leg gets bad, you know? But I thought, it’s just groundwork, right? I’m okay at negotiating.”

Ignis waits for the rest. He hopes that Gladio was rather less gentle than usually warranted, in seeing the ambassador out.

When the silence stretches too long, Noct says, “He got kinda handsy. I would’ve punched him out, only I thought dad wouldn’t appreciate a diplomatic incident.”

Ignis feels a strange swell in his chest at the words. He says, “The right ties in the Accordan media make certain diplomatic incidents all but disappear, you’ll find. As it so happens, I have the right ties in the Accordan media.”

“So you’re saying I should have punched him out.”

“I’m saying,” says Ignis, tone more fierce than intended, “that it would have been no more than he deserved.”

Noct thaws a little, then. The guardedness slips from his eyes, and from his posture. He looks like he means to reply, but Ignis’ phone buzzes before he can. “Go on,” says Noct. “It’s probably Gladio.”

It is, in fact, Gladio.

“How is he?” the text reads. “Does this guy need to accidentally fall down the stairs before I cut him loose?”

Ignis stifles a smile. “Your Shield,” he says, “is considering something of a diplomatic incident of his own.”

Noct leans over to look, with a huff of something very nearly a laugh. “Call him off. And tell him I’m fine.”

Ignis taps his reply into the phone and then slides it into his pocket again. “Are you?” he says, when he looks up.

“I am,” says Noct. But the longer Ignis stares, frank and even, the less Noct seems able to meet the gaze. “I just didn’t expect it, you know?”

Ignis takes a breath in and lets it out slowly. It’s a rhetorical question, but he finds himself answering, anyway. “Nor should you have had to.”

They stand there for a moment, in silence. At last, Noct says, “Thanks, Specs.”

“I would say any time,” says Ignis, “but frankly, I’m hoping we’ve never cause for a repeat occurrence.”

Noct smiles, wry and crooked. “You and me both.” He turns from the door, toward the couch where he used to play video games at twelve years of age, and sits himself down on the indent that still indicates his favorite spot. “Hey,” he says, almost as though it’s an afterthought. “You mind giving me a ride home, when we get out of here?”

“Not at all,” says Ignis. “Although I suspect we’d best wait for Gladio. Unless I miss my guess, he’ll be along shortly.”

Gladio is along shortly, and he brings with him some choice words about the Accordan ambassador’s parentage. Ignis adds a few thoughts of his own, decidedly less crude but every bit as cutting.

By the time they see Noct from the building, through the meandering back hallways of the Citadel and into the private attached garage, that shaken, uncertain look has been chased from his face entirely.